On a recent trip to the Philippines, I spoke to a young mother of four, Carla, who walked down a rugged mountain for 4 miles to get her youngest child (a 23-month boy) vaccinated and to get routine shots for her 4 year old girl. The foothills of the mountain had many open shaded areas for healthcare workers to set up tables, and coolers. “The trip down is easy,” she said. “It is the trip back up when I have to carry more than one of my children for one and a half hours going up that is tough. I get really tired”
I was awed by Carla’s strength but also by her perseverance to make the trek despite the obvious difficulties. All because she knew the vaccines could protect her child. Like all mothers, she knows all about protecting the lives of her children.
The world has been working together on a similar uphill climb to fight preventable childhood deaths and protect newborn and young children’s lives. The trek has not been easy but the results are quite amazing. The new numbers are in from UNICEF and UN agencies on ending childhood mortality in developing countries. And there is good news and inspiring news for vaccine-preventable deaths and childhood survival overall. The good news is that according to UNICEF, childhood mortality is on the decline. The lives of 48 million children under the age of 5 have been saved since 2000 largely due to increase access to interventions such as immunizations.
The Millennium Development Goal #4 was to cut the death rate of children under-five by two-thirds between 1990 and 2015. The rate fell by 53 percent, according to a report released by UNICEF last week. The report essentially tells us that children are half as likely to die before their fifth birthday now than they were in 1990. In fact, the measles vaccine alone has helped avert more than 15.6 million child deaths between 2001- 2013.
Now here is the inspiring news that will hopefully propel us to take action. Despite the progress made, only 62 countries have reached the MDG 4 target of a two-thirds reduction in under-5 mortality. There are still 16,000 children under the age of 5 who die every day. There is a lot of work still to be done.
Did you know that we are setting new goals to achieve more progress in ending childhood deaths? The MDGs set collective goals for ending preventable child deaths, and later this month, the world will build on their progress at the UN General Assembly to adopt the new Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs). In addition, Ban-Ki Moon, the UN Secretary-General is set to launch a new Global Strategy for Newborns’, Children’s, Adolescents’, and Women’s Health to focus energies on every woman and child ‘s right to survive and thrive.
These new goals will challenge developing countries to bring rates of under-five mortality down to 25 deaths (or fewer) per 1,000 live births, which could save an additional 38 million children under-5 by 2030.
Did you know that most under-5 deaths are preventable? Of the 5.9 million under-5 deaths in 2015, almost half were caused by leading infectious diseases and conditions such as pneumonia, diarrhea, malaria, meningitis, tetanus, measles, sepsis, and AIDS – all of which could be prevented or treated with proven, cost-effective interventions. The UN Foundation campaign, Shot@Life provides easy ways that you can get involved by advocating or donating to protect children from vaccine-preventable diseases.
Mothers like Carla are part of our success on the global goals. Our journey to reach our collective ambitions to protect children remind us that ending vaccine-preventable deaths is attainable and well worth the uphill climb.
Join us at shotatlife.org to learn more.
UNICEF' Executive Director Anthony Lake said, "The MDGs helped the world realize tremendous progress for children—but they also showed us how many children we are leaving behind."
With the current progress rate and the projected population growth, these are the areas of improvement and the consequences which we could face:
However, we are making great progress in many areas. Since UNICEF began reporting in 1990:
As the world transitions from the Millennium Development Goals to the Sustainable Development Goals, Shot@Life will continue to support the work of the UN to ensure that children around the world have access to vaccines and we work together to childhood deaths due to preventable disease.
Sixty years ago, Jonas Salk's inactivated polio vaccine (IPV) gave new hope to parents in the U.S. that they could protect their children from what was, at the time, one of the most terrifying diseases facing Americans. Today, the world is nearly polio free, with a reduction in polio cases by over 99 percent, thanks in large part to IPV together with Albert Sabin's oral polio vaccine.
Salk's vaccine not only ignited the progress against polio; it will also play a critical role in the final years of the eradication strategy. The polio eradication program is using new approaches and tools to prepare for a polio-free world, including introducing IPV in all countries that do not currently use the vaccine in routine immunization. Introducing IPV around the world will help boost immunity and lock in gains made against polio through use of the oral polio vaccine. This is one of the most ambitious vaccine introductions in history.
But just because the world has made great progress in the fight to eradicate polio, there is no room for complacency. Significant challenges remain. We need to ensure that polio-endemic countries and donor countries remain committed to eradicating this disease, which is why I am encouraged to see a show of support from a group of U.S. senators.
Earlier this week, Senators Durbin and Kirk, along with several colleagues, introduced a resolution commemorating the discovery of the polio vaccine and supporting global efforts to eradicate the disease. This resolution highlights the profound impact that the Salk vaccine has had on polio eradication efforts and the importance of biomedical research and development, commends the work of the Global Polio Eradication Initiative (GPEI), and encourages the U.S. Congress to continue to support GPEI and critical research and development.
This show of support is important. I want to thank Senators Durbin and Kirk for this resolution and for their long-time championship of polio eradication. With continued support, we will reach the end in our fight against polio.
Yesterday, UNICEF announced that the world is steadily moving forward on improving child survival. Their latest progress report confirms that the estimated annual number of under-five deaths has decreased by almost half since 1990, from 12.7 million to from 6.3 million. What's even better? This rate is falling fast and almost 100 million children have been saved in the past two decades.
Despite these encouraging successes, I was struck that this progress is not enough to meet Millennium Development Goal (MDG) 4—reducing childhood mortality by two-thirds. Measles, a disease that can be prevented by a vaccine, still kills an estimated 122,000 children per year. Dr. Richard Horton, Editor-in-Chief of The Lancet put it best when he said, "it is unacceptable, at this stage, to see complacency." More work needs to be done so no child dies of a preventable cause by their fifth birthday.
Shot@Life is committed to reducing childhood mortality by bringing access to vaccines to children around the globe. We need your support to renew our promise to all children. How can you step up the progress?
Together, we can further reduce these unnecessary deaths and give more children a shot at a happy life.
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